Georgia in the News: CNN Eye On

Posted on July 16, 2011 by

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CNN is currently profiling Georgia in its “Eye On” series. The series focuses on different countries that may not be well-known to CNN viewers.

The coverage of Georgia is interesting to me because it shows not only an outside perspective on Georgia, but what an outside perspective thinks is newsworthy and interesting to English-speaking readers. There are actually a few errors and omissions – for instance, the “Test your knowledge” quiz states that toasting with beer is “bad luck,” which, as far as I can tell from living in Georgia for ten months, is not true at all. My understanding is that toasting with beer used to be an insulting toast – something you would use to toast your enemies – but then the Patriarch blessed beer and now beer toasts are perfectly ordinary.

But aside from little things like that, you can also see how CNN’s priorities stand out in Georgia’s “Country Profile.” Some of the important details are there – they start off complimenting Georgia’s beautiful landscape, they point out Georgia’s Christianity, and then they talk about Georgia’s history with Russia. Down at the bottom they mention wine, and that Georgian is the state language.

But what about Georgian food? It’s not mentioned at all. Georgian language is undersold – the fact that Georgian belongs to a small, isolated language family (Kartvelian) with no apparent relation to any other in the world (ties to Basque are unconfirmed and controversial) is really interesting, and I’m not just saying that as a linguist. What about the role that Georgia played in the Soviet Union? What about Stalin, or the fact that Georgians were allowed to keep their language when so many other satellite republics were thoroughly Russified? I also think that the conflict over the disputed territories was given a disproportionate amount of attention in the profile, especially since that is probably the only thing most readers already know about Georgia.

I’m just saying, I would have done it differently. I would have given priority to the things that Georgians consider important and interesting about their country. But perhaps that shows that I am starting to lose my outsider’s perspective, or perhaps it’s just a methodological bias stemming from the fact that my background is in anthropology and not in journalism.

In any case, the coverage is very interesting and it’s nice that Georgia is getting some generally informative exposure in the mainstream media. What do you think about CNN’s coverage?

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Posted in: Georgia Links